Report reveals ways govt can end placement poverty for social work students

Australian Services Union

“Students can’t afford to complete an already expensive degree and forgo their paid job for months. Unpaid placements are an issue of poverty, equity and gender equality – most social work students are women and many are mature aged and have caring responsibilities. “One in five social work students are withdrawing from study due to financial stress. In a sector riddled with workforce shortages, unpaid work placements risk the loss of future staff in vital services including family violence, homelessness, and disability. We need the federal government to seriously consider the options presented to them and act swiftly on the best solution for social work students – our future community heroes.” ACHSWE representative Professor Christine Morley said: “Unpaid placements have huge consequences for students and the future of tertiary education. Social work students experience a significant reduction in income resulting in a real poverty trap with some struggling to afford rent and basic necessities.

“It’s resulting in students delaying taking placements and dropping out of their courses altogether. Social work degrees have high rates of students from diverse backgrounds yet unpaid placements are becoming a barrier for these students to complete their degrees. “To improve inclusivity and access to higher education, social work placements must be paid. The Accord recommendations must be implemented in a way that promotes greater access to our higher education system for all students.” Per Capita executive director Emma Dawson said: “There’s mounting pressure on the federal government to provide an appropriate policy response to unpaid student placements, especially for the social work education sector. “Our research recommends a government-funded stipend paid to the employer-host because it is the most equitable and inclusive of the examined models. This option is also the most effective and legislatively simple model. “Regardless of the federal government’s decision, the payment must be the Commonwealth’s responsibility, inclusive of all students and equivalent to the minimum wage.”

/Public Release.